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The NHL May Be Sending The Wrong Message

from Joe Haggerty of CSNNE,

It’s a severe sentence for Thornton, a first-time offender who compiled nearly 900 PIMs without incident as an NHL enforcer. He has a well-deserved reputation of being clean and honorable, and had never crossed the line to hurt a fellow player. Still, a harsh penalty is justified on nearly every level given his regrettable actions, though the NHL got it right by coming in under the 20-game suspension mark that defines despicable acts from guys like Marty McSorley and Todd Bertuzzi.

However, the decision to throw the book at an honest, respectable enforcer like Thornton could also be setting a dangerous precedent.

The suspension covers the league in the wake of anti-fighting sentiments with a growing number of lawsuits on the horizon, and it placates the non-hockey crowd that can’t begin to understand the sometimes violent code of honor that’s always existed in hockey. It’s a delicate balance between predator and enforcer that’s always kept both NHL species in check.

But now the scales seem to be starting to tip more toward the hyena than the lion.

Thornton’s suspension sends the message to players like Orpik that it’s okay to target skill players around the NHL with a “human missile” hit like the one the Pittsburgh defenseman was intent on delivering last weekend to Loui Eriksson, which is what prompted Thornton's response.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Boston Bruins, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: shawn+thornton


J.J. from Kansas's avatar

What a whiner Haggerty is.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/15/13 at 11:20 AM ET


Thornton’s play was dangerous and stupid, and he deserves the suspension. But if Eriksson is still out when Orpik comes back, I’ll be pretty sad indeed.

Posted by Riley on 12/15/13 at 11:22 AM ET


It’s clearly an article written from a position of bias, but it has a salient point: it’s pretty stupid to be super aggressive on Thornton plays and super-passive on Orpik plays.

What we’re seeing now all across sports leagues isn’t a focus on improving safety, it’s a focus on limiting liability.

If the NHL really wanted to improve player safety, they’d be a lot harder on the cheap-ass hits like the one Orpik made that resulted in Orpik getting concussed by Thornton later on, as well as being harder on the Thornton stuff.

What the NHL (and leagues in general) are really trying to do is get out as far in front of potential post-career lawsuits regarding concussions as they possibly can.  The whole player safety thing is a pile of crap.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/15/13 at 11:57 AM ET

Primis's avatar

In all honesty, how can anyone say that what Thornton (or Rinaldo for that matter) did is any different at all than what Bertuzzi did?

I’ve repeatedly seen footage of both Thornton and Rinaldo.  And I have yet to see ANYTHING different except for an injury result.

Posted by Primis on 12/15/13 at 12:19 PM ET


Christ. I knew this would be the reaction… making Thornton out to be the victim. Personally, I think Orpik is a punk and I have no issues with Thornton generally, but until the league bans checking it is what it is. A player making a technically “clean”, albeit very violent, hit is legal. A player skating up to an opponent, punching him to the ice and continuing to pummel his face while he is down is illegal. Get over it.

It’s interesting to me to hear the Bertuzzi incident referenced as a comparison to so many of the plays that have received the ire of the league in the years since. The outcome for Steve Moore was horrible, but no one is going to convince me that there hasn’t been far more malicious attempts to injure players since then.

Posted by godblender on 12/15/13 at 01:04 PM ET


Thornton got what he deserved. Where the NHL dropped the ball is when dealing with Neal. Neals should’ve been similar since he has a repeated history of intentional head hits. Like Michael Landsberg said, “Let’s ask people who played the game. What was worse: intentionally running into a guys head with your knee, or what Thornton did?”

Posted by rjman48 from Royal Oak on 12/15/13 at 03:10 PM ET

Luongo-is-my-hero's avatar

there are 3 differences between moore/bertuzzi and thornton/orpik

Moore knew bertuzzi was coming from behind.
Orpik did not.

Orpik slew foot from behind before punching him twice in the face.
Bert managed to do it without the slewfoot.

Orpik has a concussion
moore had a broken neck.

In all honesty, what thornton did was probably worse than what bertuzzi did.  Just the outcome was obviously not as bad.

I dont think either thornton or bertuzzi meant to hurt the other player to that extent.  Moores broken neck resulted from the 10 other guys who jumped on top of bertuzzi who was on top of moore at the time.  Couple punches to the face while going down, see that stuff all the time in hockey.  Just doesnt usually end up with a serious injury most of the time.

Posted by Luongo-is-my-hero on 12/15/13 at 11:36 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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